Yippee!! I just won a “ticket”- not a lottery or a lucky dip, but a rail ticket! The best way to get to places in India is through our very own Indian Railways. Train journeys well become the reason to travel many a times, especially when you have small children, who enjoy climbing up and down the narrow blue berth. The Indian railways is the third largest passenger rail network in the world, comprising 115,000 km of track over a route of 65,808 km and a whopping 7,112 stations.
YET, WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO DIFFICULT TO GET A RESERVED TICKET ON ANY TRAIN IN THE COUNTRY?
..Unless you plan your journey four months in advance.
With an approaching long weekend, I decided to travel to Amritsar with family and friends. Amritsar located around 450 odd kilometers from Delhi is a perfect weekend getaway with the Golden Temple and the close by Wagah Border being the main attractions. And the quickest and most comfortable way is to take the overnight train that would cover the distance in 6 odd hours. There are around 10 trains from Delhi to Amritsar, yet on none of the trains I could get a confirmed ticket. Booking of railway tickets open 120 days before the departure date. Seats fill up pretty quickly, leaving last minute journey planners, such as me, with waitlisted tickets.
Sometimes these waitlist numbers could well run into hundreds. Which means the chances of getting a confirmed ticket is possible only if all hundred people before you cancel their tickets!!The frustration is real and your whole journey depends on these waitlisted numbers. And then comes the savior, the knight in shining armor – Tatkal reservation. If you thought this was an easier option to get a ticket, you sure are making a mistake. Tatkal (or instant reservation) opens 24 hours before the day the train leaves its origin destination. The bookings for these tickets open at 10.00 AM on the previous day. You would need a fast internet connection and enter the entire set of passenger details to get a confirmed ticket. Hold on… all to be done in less than 5 minutes!
The situation at railway counters is far worse. Commuters are forced to sleep at railway stations overnight to have a chance to buy a ticket. There are frequent altercations between commuters and touts and a lot of pushing and shoving in the queues. It’s like a lottery. Tickets are sold out in minutes. Travelling by train always holds this element of uncertainty- of whether one is going to travel or not. And if you do have a confirmed ticket in hand, u better undertake your journey, because you never know when you would get your next confirmed ticket!
And yes I did manage to get a confirmed ticket to Amritsar. After nail biting seconds in front of my laptop, I successfully booked my tickets through the Tatkal reservation.